Aristotle's Philosophy of Music

  • Valentin Kalan
Keywords: Aristoteles, Metaphysics, philosophy of music, aesthetics, harmony


Aristotle's approach to music is articulated in three different ways: harmonics, psychology of music and its place in the system of education – sociology of music and musical catharsis. In this article, we will treat his understanding of music in the Metaphysics and his psychology of hearing and the voice in his work On the Soul. In the Metaphysics he studied some fundamental issues of Pythagorean harmonics. He critically rejected the Pythagorean and Platonic theory of numbers as intermediate entities between sensible substances and forms. He also rejected the Pythagorean idea of world music and introduced a very important distinction between mathematical and acoustical harmonics. Special attention is given to two notions of Aristotle's harmonics: his understanding of quarter-tone and his interpretation of musical concord or consonance. In his psychology, Aristotle studied music as the phenomenon of sense perception and through this he established the distinction between sound, voice and tone, which remained effective up to modern physical acoustics. From the aesthetical point of view, special importance can be attached to his definition of hearing as a ratio, λόγος and of the voice as a concord. When he compared the process of sense perception with the playing of a stringed instrument, he modified the Pythagorean notion of soul as harmony and indicated the artistic character of the auditory experience.


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How to Cite
KalanV. (2001). Aristotle’s Philosophy of Music. Musicological Annual, 37(1), 5-31.